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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005 Dec 9;54(48):1233-5.

Outbreak of cutaneous Bacillus cereus infections among cadets in a university military program--Georgia, August 2004.


Although Bacillus cereus is known mainly as an agent of food poisoning, other infections caused by this organism have been documented in immunocompromised patients, including sepsis, meningitis, pneumonia, and wound infections. Certain populations are at increased risk for B. cereus infection, including cancer patients, neonates, intravenous drug users, and patients with a history of trauma, surgery, or catheterization. Primary cutaneous disease attributed to B. cereus in immunocompetent persons or in non-health-care settings rarely has been reported. This report is the first to document such an outbreak. On August 24, 2004, a local health department in Georgia received a call from a university health center describing 90 cadets with nonpruritic, impetigo-like lesions on their scalps; B. cereus was the common organism among the three patients whose lesions were cultured. The cases occurred during the freshman military orientation week that preceded the start of the fall term. The Georgia Division of Public Health (GDPH) conducted an investigation to determine the source of the infections, identify associated risk factors, and implement control measures. This report summarizes the results of the outbreak investigation, which identified receiving a short haircut at the start of orientation week, sharing sunscreen during the week, and membership in Company B as strongly associated with having scalp lesions. Recommendations to the university included changing the type of haircut required, increasing time allowed for showering, and issuing individual sunscreen. The results of this investigation underscore the need for military programs to incorporate good hygiene and infection-control measures into school orientation events.

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